What would it be like to be constantly disbelieved for your own experience? To never ever be validated, with or without proof? How does it feel to be dismissed, denied, and rejected? To have your tears and frustration met with responses like, “I don’t believe you. You are lying.”
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Currently the official canon of American Renaissance literature (defined by F. O. Matthiessen as literature written between 1850 and 1855) includes no women and no people of color. Across the US and the world that include American Renaissance, or the like, as part of their curriculum study this time period with only the perspectives of white men. But both women and people of color wrote landmark, culture-shifting works during this time that embody the very meaning of renaissance. I aimed to uncover and explore their works.
Yesterday, I left my career home of twelve years. I was a baby when I started and I am still sort of a baby now (at least that's how I feel). And those who are interested want to know what's next. "Where are you going, Jevon?" It's hard for me to just say the company and the job title without sharing the weight of what I feel this next season is all about for me, and, really, for anyone who has an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to them during what I believe is a time of major transition for God's people around the globe. So I'll start with a little background.
I think it's important to place special emphasis on the histories and contributions of the many ethnic groups represented in this country. When we don't, we tend to overlook the beauty of our diverse cultural perspectives—and almost assume that we all think alike and begin to hold each other to certain expectations and standards that if they are not met we feel justified in our expressions of hate or apathy toward each other's struggles and experiences.
The Genius of Nonviolence and Peaceful Resistance During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s
Though Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the very deserving front man on whom we shower accolades and credit for the achievements attained during the Civil Rights Movement, it was the collaborative effort of several groups of strategic thinkers who carefully plotted out and executed an irreversible, genius plan to equalize life for black people in America. The strategy used is called nonviolent direct-action protest.
FOR THE BEGINNER
1. Venture in to any section of the bookstore that shelves books by authors who are not of your ethnic background.
2. Buy a book from that section on something that interests you--fiction or nonfiction.
3. Read the book.
4. Write a brief review of the book and post it on Amazon.com, your blog if you have one, a friend's blog, the author's website, and the like.
5. Recommend the book to your friends who share your same ethnicity.
6. Rinse and repeat.
FOR THE ADVANCED
7. Research and find blogs by people who regularly promote or feature books by people of color. Follow their recommendations on good books--and read them. Many maybe indie or self-published books, but limit discrimination here as well. This is sometimes the best way for a person of color to get their message out.
8. Participate in reader groups or book clubs that discuss books by a diverse collection of authors. There are many online, if you live in a homogenous geographic location.
9. Peruse multicultural or urban bookstores (this can also be done online), buy a book, read it, write a review, and post your review--I think I may have said this already. :) You may be so bold as to send your review directly to the publisher asking for more books like the one you read and liked.
10. Be ready to explore your biases against other ethnicities. Overcome them by allowing childlike wonder to draw you in to reading books by them and about them. Consider the story over the ethnic background of the characters in the book and the artwork on the book cover. You'll be glad you did.
BONUS FOR PARENTS AND CHILD EDUCATORS
11. Buy books for your children/classroom that have stories with diverse characters. Be brave enough to actually talk through the issues presented in the books. ANSWER YOUR CHILDREN'S QUESTIONS about ethnic, social, and cultural issues honestly and with compassion. If you can't, go back to the first two sentences of #10. Also, involve other people who are committed to educating children and adults on diversity issues. Consider that it really does take a village...
These are deliberate actions that will help you step out of your normal reading habits and inclinations. Consider this a challenge for the year. As you become more aware of good books by people of color and find that they are not available in your bookstore, request that the bookstore order more diverse books. Tell your friends to do the same thing. I've done this a few times with hair/beauty supply stores and grocery stores and still find my requested products stocked on their shelves to this day. Stores will stock and promote what sells and it takes a smart and active consumer to help make a difference in what's readily available for purchase.
This is a battle worth fighting with all the bullying and other crimes going on these days. Our active engagement and genuine interest in the lives of people who are different from us helps us to break down the walls that separate us and eliminate the ignorance that makes us fear the unknown.
Will you take the challenge? What other things can you personally do to encourage more diversity in the book market?
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter.”